A new CALM study published by the CALM Team has shown that ADHD behaviours are strongly linked with difficulties in the social use of language, and more weakly associated with formal language knowledge.
The research team investigated the relationship between ADHD behaviours and language in a sample of children referred to the CALM clinic (http://calm.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/). The children were referred for difficulties in attention, learning, and/or memory. Two aspects of language were examined: i) pragmatic language skills – the social use of language in communication, and ii) structural language skills – the formal use of language such as syntax and semantics in both communication and literacy.
Behavioural problems of both inattention and hyperactivity were strongly linked to pragmatic communication difficulties. There was a weaker relationship between ADHD symptoms and structural communication skills, and no relationship between behaviour and literacy skills.
These findings suggest that ADHD behaviours are more strongly tied to social difficulties with language than formal aspects of language knowledge. One possibility is that co-occurring ADHD behaviours and social communication difficulties are related to poor executive function, the cognitive skills supporting goal-directed behaviour. Difficulties with the use of language structure may emerge through additional routes such as problems with phonological processing.